Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Choose Joy: Surviving Infertility and Adoption

So tomorrow it will have been 3 years since we were suddenly, irrevocably, infertile. A few weeks ago we attended Choose Joy: Surviving Infertility and Adoption, a conference put on by Emmy Blakely at Crossline Church in South Orange County. I didn't post about it right away and I'm taking the opportunity to do this today. . . the day BEFORE Ashlyn's birthday.  Ashlyn's birthday will be about Ashlyn and the sparing of both of our lives.  Forever and ever.  But it also signifies the sudden end of my fertility and the change in our family's trajectory.  A week or two before Reed was born and before the conference, I went to the gynecologist for a regular check up.  I have tried, unsuccessfully, for the past 3 years, to go to that office without crying.  Hasn't happened yet.  This time, I felt especially stupid since we were weeks away from our little man's birth.  Honestly, it crossed my mind that we shouldn't be doing this if this doctor's office and this event still makes me tear up.  How could I be ready for another baby and adoption if this still stings?  Why is it that, even after it's been shown that God is clearly not done with our family and we have this beautiful little man in our arms and our lives, that I haven't gotten completely "over this"? 
The weekend at Choose Joy truly helped me to answer these questions so that we can more confidently walk through wherever God will take us next and for whomever He brings into our family. The event was two days, Friday night and all day Saturday. It is good for anyone who has walked the infertility road (our story is a little different since we we very fertile and suddenly. . . not so no painful, frustrating treatments and waiting but we still found camaraderie and love here), considered adoption, want to make the jump from infertility to adoption or anyone who has adopted or is interested in adoption, infertility or not.
Friday night we brought Reed along to the evening session and he was a huge, huge hit.  There he was, this adoption miracle, amid all these stories.  That night, I hardly held my baby since he was bring passed around through dinner (which was fine with me since I got to eat! :-) ).  Friday night we fellowshiped, learned about ways we can help others overseas (the women helped cut up jeans to me made into shoes for kiddos in developing countries to protect their feet from burrowing insects called "chiggers") and the men had a LONG "guys only" session that lasted 2 hours and my husband described as "REALLY GOOD" (bunch of guys opening up about the challenges of infertility and adoptions, yeah, he said it was good.)
Saturday we had a morning worship session and then break away sessions on different topics. We went to: "Starting a Orphan Care Ministry at Your Church" which gave us some really interesting tips on how to really bring this issue to the forefront in our little church.  We hope to be able to this year, gradually.  Then, we checked out "Healing from the Hurt of Infertility" which was the only infertility session we thought might apply to us. It did. For the most part.  And we took away some from it and mulled over how it could have been taken full circle and in our own discussion of it, we found more healing.  After lunch, Christian headed to a men's session "The Maniless of Adoption" where some of the points from the night before were rehashed but new things were also brought up (seriously, folks, just for the way it got the guys talking about these hard issues makes this thing totally worth the time and cost and, just everything) while I went to a session on "Open Adoption" which featured two adoptive families and the ways in which they were navigating their own open adoptions with their children's birthparents, some more open than others due to situations the birthparents were in but open nonetheless.  Our situation is an open one. We've exchanged numbers, we text but with K out of state, we probably won't be quite as open as some of these described.  But we'll see how it goes as Reed grows and what she's comfortable with.  The last session we attended was "Transracial Adoption" which we went to for obvious reasons.  It was more of a discussion format as the leaders of the session's son was only a toddler but there were several other parents in the room who were parenting children of another ethnic background who were able to provide ideas for the group.  As parents, we want to do things right for each child in our family, biological, white, black, adopted. . . just all of them. I think most parents do, so this topic is going to be a preoccupation of ours for a while, I'm sure.  Not sure we'll get everything right but we love this little man so, so much and are so blessed to be his parents.
After breakaway sessions, we had dinner with the whole group.  We listened to one another's stories and shared ours.  There was a raffle for a huge pot of money that went to a family who was paying off their adoption (last year it went to a family who just finished infertility treatments and who used the money to adopt their little boy).  But the keynote speaker, Courtney Lott, founder of Faithful Adoption Consultants (our consultant who help bring us to Reed), said several things that made me release a breath I had no idea I was even holding onto.  Courtney is the momma of 6 sweet kiddos, 2 biological and 4 adopted kids.  Big, beautiful family. But her story was not without major pain.  Miscarriages and infertility plagued their family for years.  But as I watched her tear up when talking about her struggles, I breathed out.  Because despite her abundant blessings, it still hurt.  I was normal.  It was ok to cry in the doctor's office (although, as much as I love that medical group, I'm pretty sure it's time for me to find a new practice, just to keep me sane).

Us with other FAC Families at the Choose Joy Conference 
 But God gave us the gift of Reed and it filled our hearts with joy.  But I'll be real.  The sting of that day doesn't just go away.  I wish I could say it did.  I see Reed and any other children we adopt as totally unrelated to the sadness of placenta accreta and unexpected hysterectomies and birth trauma.  Adoption itself is always born of loss, in and of itself. Yes, he is the beauty from the ashes, for sure.  But the fire still occurred and I believe that Job still mourned his previous life and family even after God restored everything to abundance. . . not in the way that undermines all the rich blessings you have been given instead, but as a natural sadness at the brokenness of this life.  But at the same time, I recognize that, while we were open to adoption before we even knew this would happen, I know that little man may or may not have been with us had my placenta not, silently, grown into my uterus, had the doctor on call not worked quickly and wisely and removed my uterus before I bled to death.  It's quite the paradox of joy and pain, this life.  I have learned, in these 3 years to trust God like I never have before.  For both Christian and I, this has been the most spiritually stretching, eye opening 3 years I have experienced in my life and made Hebrews 11:1 so much more understandable, as it says, "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."  We placed our family in His hands and we wait for His work to unfold in our lives as we continue on our journey of faith.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Easter and Reed's first Sunday in church

Reed's first Sunday in church also happened to be Easter Sunday, which I totally love, by the way.  What better Sunday, the day God completed the adoption into His family, we bring this precious boy before Him.  Thankfulness abounds.   

This year I got three baskets together.

Made the girls wait at the top of the stairs before they ran down to get their baskets, anticipation going wild (I had to make sure I was ready to take pictures, of course! :-) )

He is Risen, so we celebrate with baskets and love and worship at church and getting dressed up.  Easter's really one of my favorites.  More hope than my heart can even hold during this holiday.

Of course, finding "dress up clothes" for a newborn the week before Easter isn't easy but I think I did pretty well.

After service, the girls enjoyed an Egg Hunt on the lawn with other kids at the church.  

Happy Easter! He is Risen :-)

Monday, May 4, 2015

Our Trip to Reed AKA #roadtriptobaby3

So for a while, we didn't know, exactly, when little man was scheduled for his arrival.  His birthmom was having a csection, and her doctors in her home state had told her "around March 26th" so we'd been planning for the 26th.  However, because the agency is in Utah, she was going to have the baby in Utah and the doctors there hadn't given her a definite date. So we waited, and assumed the 26th. . .until we got word that it was going to be the 23rd. . . the Tuesday before. So, my weekend plans became the plans for the next couple of days and we were packed and ready to head out to meet our little boy on Saturday, March 21st. 

First stop was a Starbucks for breakfast and coffee. Christian agreed to drive the first leg and I didn't end up driving until we hit St. George.  The drive out was full of uncertainty, excitement, anticipation. . . all of it.  We'd taken this route before, just a few months earlier, not knowing that we'd be making this same trip later to meet our little boy.  During our first trip, there was a lot of fear and concern that the girls would have a hard time with the long drive and that Chino to Salt Lake in one day was entirely too much to take in.  But we were wrong.  We made sure they had something to look forward to, used coloring books, road trip friendly crafts, stories on CD, just about anything.  We did save electronic games for the VERY last leg of our trip when we deemed it an emergency but didn't rely on it.  Love how the girls were able to look out the window, engage with others and fill up pages and pages of paper with their drawings that I will cherish for years.
We made it to Nevada with no major issues,
got to Arizona without a hitch. . .
drove through the Virgin River Gorge (probably my favorite 40 minutes of the trip) . . .

and finally made it to Utah.  I remember crossing the border into Utah thinking, "This is it! We are here! Little man will be born HERE!"
Now, the great thing about when we finally made it to South Jordan, was the place we were able to stay.  A little background, a friend of Christian's at work has several contacts in the Salt Lake area since he attended BYU Idaho and several friends from there or his Ward have friends there.  One afternoon, he asked Christian is we had made arrangements for housing while there. We hadn't due to the fact that K's csection date wasn't set in stone.  So a Facebook post and a lot of God working out details, we had a place to stay, for free, 5 mins from the hospital little man was to be born with a family who, over the course of their own marriage, had adopted 10 children.  We were blown away by their kindness, generosity and care for our family while we were there.  Claire and Ashlyn loved the drawer with all the toys and books and loved playing with Miss Arlene who had also taught preschool for years and was very tolerant and loving toward our loud, rambuntious, bickering (at times) little girls. 

The second day we were there, my dad was able to fly out for the purpose of helping us with the girls as we met with little man's birthmom and hung out at the hospital when he was born.  The girls LOVED having Papa there and we loved the extra hand and having someone there to be with them so we could be free to be with our new little boy.

The day before the csection date, we met K and her friend who drove her out to Utah for dinner.  It confirmed in us the connection we had with her and God's hand in the match, for sure.  

The next morning was an early one.  I knew I needed to get some sleep since we wouldn't be shortly :-)  But it was hard. . . too excited, nervous for K for the whole situation.  Per K's request, we were supposed to be allowed into the nursery as soon as he was brought in.  She was going to sign some paperwork allowing us to see him right away, but since the night staff forgot to give it to her and the morning staff didn't get a chance (her csection was early in the morning), we spent about 15 to 20 min waiting for the social worker to get a signature from K after her surgery. We could hear him crying on the other side of the door to the nursery.  We wanted so bad to be on the other side. . . couldn't believe we were there, hearing him.  

And then we were cleared to go in. . . 

and he was here. . . 

He was perfect, and sweet and . . .here.  I remember being completely awestruck at the whole moment.  The nurses and doctor who came to seen him were commenting on what a pretty baby he was.  There was some concern from a nurse that one of his ears didn't have an opening, but the doctor assured us that it did.
They kept checking his blood sugar.  And we just held him. And rocked him. And fed him. And tried to send word and pictures back to family amid very bad hospital wifi.

After a while, the nurses asked us if we'd like our own room with him. We weren't allowed to have a hospital room but they had a room off to the side of the nursery with rocking chairs and a sink. We spent the afternoon there with him while his birthmom slept off her surgery that morning. And we got to know this new little son.  And were amazed by the whole thing.

We named him Reed (after my grandma's family, who have handed down an amazing faith in Christ, love for music and grace for others) William (after my dad and also a mentor of mine who passed away the same day we matched with his birthmom, a guy who loved learning, travel and people) Caeden (a name K said she'd always liked).  

Our two days in the hospital we spent, mostly with Reed and we'd visit K and her friend who helped drive her to Utah.  We, luckily, got along with both of them and while the situation was a difficult one, it was also so, so good to have a good relationship with her through the difficult.  We had prayed for a situation where we could feel totally comfortable with future contact with the birthmom we'd be matched with and God gave us more than we could have asked for with K.  She came to see Reed in the nursery on Tuesday morning and then again Tuesday afternoon after we'd all been discharged and papers had been signed. We got pictures of her with him and us. It was good and hard and amazing and incredibly humbling.

We packed up to head out, Reed was so small in the carseat, the same carseat I brought his sisters home in and the last baby we will use it for since it will expire in a year or so.

We snapped a picture of Reed with the social worker we had in Utah through Heart and Soul Adoptions.

And suddenly, we were a family of 5.

The next several days were spent waiting out ICPC (Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children) to be cleared in the state of Utah and then in California.  We had no idea how long this would all take.  It could be a week or two depending on how fast everyone got everything done.  We had heard Utah was fast and efficient. California, not so much.  So we really were ready for anything.
But this also gave us some time to breathe and enjoy this new life in our family before hitting the road again.  My dad stayed through Wednesday night so we got to meet Reed first.  Ashlyn, who I was worried would not take to a younger sibling and who I thought might be jealous, fell in love.  I'm predicting they will be best friends.

Claire loved her brother from the start.  She's been helpful, has learned to feed him, fetch diapers for me and likes to kiss and hold him.

Christian is loving having a "little buddy" after all the girls,  

and I can't get over this snuggly, sweet little man.

Two days after he was born, we brought him to a pediatrician in West Jordan for his check up.  We loved the doctor in the hospital and we got to see her in in office a few days later.  Everything checked out great with him!

Another miracle in this whole thing is the speed in which we were able to go to court to see the judge. We decided, per agency recommendation, to finalize in the state of Utah.  We are hoping to be able to have our lawyer and agency represent us on finalization day so we saw the judge while we were there.  Both the court and the lawyer had cancellations enabling us to be able to go to court Thursday afternoon.  The judge was very nice and the clerk gave the girls stuff to write on during the proceedings.  After it was over, the judge said, "I was adopted and had wonderful parents and a great life."  She was so glad to hear our case, as it was the first adoption case for her.  That was amazing.

One Friday, we decided to spend some time at the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium.   It was great for the kids and little man slept most of the time.  He did perk up for the sharks. . . and promptly went back to sleep.  :-)
The penguins were a huge hit.

We also discovered, in the South America exhibit, Ashlyn's hair becomes extremely curly in hot, humid weather.  Who knew?!

We fully expected to be there through the weekend.  But to out amazement, while we were sitting at lunch at the aquarium, we got a phonecall from a social worker in CA at Nightlight Christian Adoptions who we had complete our ICPC in CA.  She asked if we had gotten the call to go home yet. . . we hadn't (and really didn't expect to).  "Well, you should hear soon. Everything is done on our end.  Let me know if I need to make another call."  WHAT?!  Sure enough, a couple hours later, our social worker in Utah sent a text message said we were cleared to travel.  Mind blown. So the next morning, we said goodbye to the amazing couple that allowed us to invade their home during this adoption and who gave us so much encouragement during the whole process.  We were so, so blessed by the Bartlett's and their hospitality.  Thank you seems so inadequate.

Heading home, however, was going to prove to be the most stressful part of the trip.  Leaving the Salt Lake area, the car started making strange scraping noises.  Christian checked it, secured a few things and thought it was fixed due to the fact that the noise all but disappeared.

We continued to St. George where we visited the Dinosaur Discovery Site which was worth about a half hour or so for the girls to stretch their legs and see dinosaur bones.

We stayed at the CasaBlanca Resort and Casino for the night and expected to head home in the morning.

But we wouldn't make it home the next day.  Leaving Las Vegas, the traffic looked like this. . .

it wound up taking us an hour to get from Las Vegas to Primm, Nevada (Stateline).  And remember that scraping sound?  It came back. . . so, so much worse.  We finally made the decision to return to Las Vegas and stay at a Station Casino but when I told a friend who lives in Henderson with her family that we were going to be staying there overnight, she suggested we just come stay with her.  Unexpected but it was GREAT to see her and her family and love, love, love that Danielle is a part of Reed's story :-) 

After Firestone fixed the broken wheel bearing, we were finally able to make it to California,

and welcome this little guy to his new forever home.